Still Counting by Phil Fragasso

(about this author)

  • Adam Donatello and Nina Morales share an immediate and powerful attraction, and their future together seems assured. But love is difficult enough without adding complications—real or imagined—to the mix. Nina sees life as a thousand shades of gray, while Adam tends toward black-and-white. He wants to move fast; she needs time. Nina sees her past liaisons with women as immaterial to their relationship, while her disclosure drives Adam to a state of irrational jealousy. He doesn't know how he could compete with a woman, and his suspicions—which Nina views as hypocritical—lead them both to make decisions they may live to regret.

    Excerpt:

    “You’re a regular Prince Charming,” she said softly. She placed a hand on my forearm and gently squeezed.

    We drove in silence for a few minutes. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, Nina alternately inhaled the daisies’ fragrance and pressed them to her chest. I’ve been a romantic fool my whole life, and I was hoping I’d found a kindred spirit. Up to that point, Casey was the closest thing I’d ever come to true love, and that was not how I wanted to spend my life.

    I was on Memorial Drive and took an exit to cross the river to the Boston side.

    “So you’re taking me to the big city?” Nina asked.

    “Perhaps.”

    “Come on, Adam. Tell me where we’re going.”

    “Why, you getting worried?”

    “Not at all. I just have a lot of allergies, and I don’t want it to be embarrassing for you if I puke at the dinner table.”

    “Shit. I never even thought of that.” My chest tightened and I turned toward Nina with narrowed eyes. “What kind of allergies do you have?”

    “Well for starters,” she said, “red meat gives me the runs. Chicken makes my tongue swell up like a python that’s just swallowed a piglet. Which reminds me—pork makes me gassier than the farting scene in Blazing Saddles. I’m okay with most seafood as long as it’s from the Mediterranean or Indian Ocean. The doctors aren’t quite sure why that is. Vegetables are okay, but they have to be grown hydroponically. I also get severe cramps from dairy products. But, oddly enough, I’m fine with gluten and peanuts. Go figure.”

    “Holy shit. How long have you been living like this?”

    “For never.” Nina tossed her hair back and filled the car with a cackle of unabashed joy. “I just like messing with you. You’re always so serious looking.”

    “Just for that I’m not telling you where we’re going. It’ll be a surprise, and if you don’t like it, you can wait in the car.”

    “Golly gee, Mr. Donatello, I loves it when a man takes charge.” She did a Marilyn Monroe shimmy in her seat. “Gives me goose bumps.”

    I was now on Storrow Drive, but instead of heading into downtown Boston, I crossed back over the Charles River to the Cambridge side.

    “I see what you’re doing,” said Nina. “You’re going all Godfather on me. Afraid we’re being followed? Plan on knocking me off or something?”

    I kept my eyes glued to the road ahead.

    Nina poked me in the ribs. “How ’bout a hint, Mr. Donatello? Just a teeny tiny one. Huh? Huh?”

    I pursed my lips. “Okay, but just one. This will be the most important meal of your day.”

    “Please don’t tell me we’re going to some fancy-schmancy place where all the movers and shakers eat. Number one, I don’t eat anything I can’t pronounce. Number two, I hate movers and shakers. And number three…”

    Nina paused and I looked over at her.

    “And number three is that you’ve already impressed me with the flowers so don’t blow a wad of money on a small plate of over-produced culinary melodrama just to try and improve your chances of getting in my pants.”

    I nodded but refused to smile. “Number one, I don’t eat anything that requires me to use a knife. Number two, I kind of like the way you move and shake. And number three, the flowers have pretty much ensured that I’m getting into your pants.”

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Still Counting

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